It’s been said that 85% of the peo­ple who work in social media have been in the indus­try for less than two years. I think it was LinkedIn who first sug­gested this, but it often explains why there is so much bad advice float­ing around, so many poorly devised strate­gic plans and so much money wasted on failed campaigns.

The thing with being a social media strate­gist is that it’s believed (in dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing cir­cles any­way), to be quite a sexy title, and yet it is one that requires absolutely no for­mal qual­i­fi­ca­tions or estab­lished processes for devel­op­ment. Hence all the social media ninja’s, guru’s mavens and wiz­ards that we encounter on a daily basis. The prob­lem here is that this lack of expe­ri­ence often causes a mis­un­der­stand­ing of what an actual social strat­egy is. In my opin­ion, the mis­un­der­stand­ing isn’t com­pli­cated, it is sim­ply this…

“Strat­egy Does NOT Involve Emotion”

You would think that this is obvi­ous. Busi­ness lead­ers have under­stood for years that the best strate­gies are absolutely devoid of emo­tion, bias or agenda. They are not shaped by the opin­ion of an indi­vid­ual but around the evi­dence and insight gained from work­ing closely with an organ­i­sa­tion. [Re-read that last sen­tence because it is REALLY impor­tant!!!] The issue here for social media strate­gists is that one of the main things they believe to be true of social media often blurs some boundaries…

“Social Media Users Share Emo­tions Not Facts”.

It’s a great quote, one that I believe came from research by Jonah Berger at Whar­ton Uni­ver­sity, (I even used it myself when I built the Pur­pose Pyra­mid), but it has no place in the strate­gic process. Emo­tion has every­thing to do with social psy­chol­ogy and why peo­ple behave the way that they do online, but that has noth­ing to do with strat­egy. Face­book even has a term for cam­paigns that are built upon emo­tion: “Social by Design”.

Many social strate­gists have migrated out of the adver­tis­ing or brand comms indus­try, which goes some way towards explain­ing their reliance upon “fluffy” aware­ness met­rics. I’m talk­ing about the kind that are focused solely on engage­ment — the likes of which you often hear when dis­cussing the rel­a­tive suc­cess of a TV, press or out­door campaign.

I believe in Love­marks as much as the next brand strate­gist (the term refers to an emo­tional attach­ment with a brand and was coined by Saatchi CEO, Kevin Roberts), but it’s easy to con­fuse an “emo­tional strat­egy” that will raise aware­ness, with a busi­ness strat­egy that dri­ves sales. Look at these two exam­ples of strate­gic processes and it’s easy to see why peo­ple con­fuse the two (you’ll notice the sec­ond ver­sion isn’t as sexy but involves a spe­cific ACTION plan):

Love­marks : A Brand Com­mu­ni­ca­tions “Strategy”

Customer-Based Brand Equity model (CBBE, Keller, 2002, & Kotler/Pfoertsch, 2006), modified by Pyramid
Source: Customer-Based Brand Equity model (CBBE, Keller, 2002, & Kotler/Pfoertsch, 2006), mod­i­fied by Pyra­mid. blog​.pyra​mid​.se

A “Tra­di­tional” Strate­gic Process

Source: visionsforireland.com
Source: visions​forire​land​.com

The prob­lem with all of this is that whilst good social media peo­ple under­stand that great cam­paigns are built on emo­tion (in order to get some­one to share, RT or view it), the strat­egy that cam­paign is founded on should NOT be built on emotion.

Strat­egy Shaped by Emo­tion = House Built upon Sand* etc. etc…

  1. Look at the data
  2. Find out exactly what it is telling you
  3. Build your strat­egy on that rock* instead.


Your boss will love you for it.

* (Apolo­gies for the bib­li­cal analogy).